Union minister Alphons Kannanthanam on Monday lashed out at the police action in Sabarimala, calling the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led state government Stalinist, even as the situation across the state remained tense.
Kannanthanam attacked the midnight police action on Sunday when the police arrested and removed about 100 devotees from the vicinity of the Sannidhanam or the sanctum sanctorum.
He asked why the state had deployed 15,000 police personnel. He asked if it considered the Ayyappa devotees terrorists.
After visiting the base stations of Nilakkal and Pampa, the minister of state for culture and tourism in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government at the centre, said he was in Sabarimala to study the reconstruction work that the state was doing in and near the temple with the Rs100 crores that the Centre had given.
He said there are widespread complaints from devotees about the lack of public amenities in Pampa and the state has to explain where the money that the Centre had given vanished.
The Supreme Court, meanwhile, refused to entertain a petition on Monday seeking a stay on implementing its September 28 order allowing the entry of women of all ages.
The court said only a five-judge bench would hear the petition and it will take it up along with with the review petitions posted on January 22.
The Kerala High Court, hearing a bunch of petitions against police action in the temple when it opened last time, criticised the police for using high-handed tactics. The court asked the advocate general to make a submission after the noon recess on the police action that resulted in inconvenience to some devotees.
The BJP-led Hindu right-wing groups showed black flags at Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan when he was coming out of a public function in Kozhikode.
At the function, Vijayan said the government has no go but to implement the Supreme Court order. He said the state had information that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP's ideological mentor, had plans to create problems in Sabarimala by sending its members in the garb of devotees. He said the government would thwart any such plans.
CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan said the RSS and other right-wing outfits were planning to use the Supreme Court order as a ruse to create trouble in the state.
Judicial probe demand
BJP state chief PS Sreedharan Pillai demanded a judicial inquiry into midnight police action, claiming the police used force against genuine devotees.
Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala condemned the police action at Sannidhanam and demanded a judicial inquiry. The Congress leader said if the government extended prohibitory orders on the temple premises, the opposition United Democratic Front would join the protests.
Police said the arrests were necessary after there were protests at Sannnidhanam defying the prohibitory orders. About 100 protesters were removed to a police camp about 30km from the temple. Police have slapped non-bailable offences on 65 protesters.
Protesters have gathered outside the gate of the police camp demanding the release of those taken into custody.
Tensions continued to rise on Monday in and around the temple where prohibitory orders are in force amid protests against a Supreme Court order allowing the entry of women of all ages.
The base camp at Nilakkal saw some tense scene early in the morning after Hindu Aikyavedi president KP Sasikala, who had been arrested and charged with violation of the prohibitory orders on Friday, boarded a bus. Police intervened and took an undertaking from her that she would not remain at the Sannidhanam after here prayers and would not do anything provocative.
The right-wing groups are organising sit-in protests in front of district police offices. The authorities expect more leaders of Hindu rightwing outfits to reach the temple posing security headache to the police.
Several state Congress party leaders including former home minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan visited the temple on Sunday and said the deployment of police hindered peaceful pilgrimage.
The state government has maintains that the BJP and the main opposition Congress party are trying to make political gains out of the situation arising from the apex court order allowing the entry of women of all ages into forest shrine.
The temple will remain open for the Mandalam season until December 27 until it closes after the Mandala pooja. It will reopen for Makara Vilakku festival on December 30 and close on January 14.
A section of the pilgrims is complaining about the inadequate amenities at Pampa from where the pilgrimage is on foot. The government has not been able to complete the reconstruction of the facilities that were destroyed by the devastating floods earlier this year.
The state transport corporation is running buses between Nilakkal and Pampa in security convoys. Private vehicles are not allowed beyond Nilakkal.
The government has deployed police in force fearing untoward incidents as hundreds of women devotees within the 10-50 age group have sought protection for safe temple visit. The protesters have declared their intention to stop any woman within the 'menstruating age' group from visiting the temple.